This question I am confused with (which is the correct option?)

Choose the correct answer form a, b, c, or d:

Do you think I could borrow the book after you ......... reading it?

a. had finished
b. finished
c. have finished
d. will finish

I know have finished reading is the most correct according to tense sequence, but the present perfect is hardly used to tell about a finished completed action (all grammar books tell that).

If we say have finished reading it is this telling about a completed action ?

  • have finished (or are finished) would be correct and idiomatic. Jan 3, 2020 at 8:36
  • After you are finished ? why passive ? not possible I see and it is not mentioned among the choices ) ... Also, I can say : after you finish reading it ... It looks better than to say : ( after you have finished reading it), but this also is not mentioned among the choices. Jan 3, 2020 at 8:56
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    "After you are finished ? why passive ?" It's not passive ("The book was finished by you") it's using the past participle as a descriptive modifier (like an adjective). Another, similar phrasing would be after you are through reading it. Jan 3, 2020 at 9:25
  • 1
    When the person gets to the end of the book, they will say "I have finished reading it. Now I can lend it to my friend." Jan 3, 2020 at 10:36
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    @Mohammad Ahmad: Could you please give us a simple example of a sentence where present perfect does not express a finished action or a finished series of actions? Please give us a sentence where the action in present perfect is still ongoing while speaking the sentence. It should be no problem if it's like that in 80% of all cases. Please consider that a possible continuation does not make the action ongoing.
    – Ben A.
    Jan 3, 2020 at 16:03

1 Answer 1


(I am going to refer to the comments to your question as well.)

'but the present perfect is hardly used to tell about a finished completed action (all grammar books tell that).'

Please have a look at Present Perfect. Do you still have the impression of hardly used?

The sense of continuity is added to the present perfect tense only if we use it with 'for' resp. 'since'. Well, we're neither asking
'Do you think I could borrow the book after you have finished reading it for two weeks?' (a spark of sense in it)
nor are we asking
'Do you think I could borrow the book after you have finished reading it since today?' (complete nonsense).

That's why we refer to a finished/completed action here.

By the way, we should also consider the assumed length of 'to finish'. While we can easily say 'I have read the book for three months (now).' saying 'I have finished reading the book for three months.' sounds strange because finishing is about coming to an end - unlike living. Therefore, 'I have finished reading the book.' excludes a continuation of the finishing act in the same way as 'He has died.' excludes a continuation of dying - unlike 'I have lived in London.' where living in London can continue.

In addition, the 'do you think' question reveals no uncertainty of temporal kind and is therefore irrelevant for our consideration of the finishedness of the reading act resp. of the present perfect tense. The whole question is not interested in the exact time the act of borrowing could happen. It solely expresses uncertainty caused by possibly existing factors which could render the act of borrowing impossible although the book is theoretically 'borrowable' because the reading is (definitely) finished - factors like the wish to read the book once again or the promise to borrow it to someone else. Of cause, the inquirer wants to have the book as soon as possible. But saying 'after you have finished reading it', they submit to the reading pace of the book owner and, thus, accept the temporal uncertainty in the first place.

  • Well I read all the examples of a finished action using the present perfect and none of the examples is similar to the one I asked about : I have been to Tokyo. Yes I mentioned = went + returned = 100 % finished action They have visited Paris three times. three times ? does it need a proof ? We have never seen that film. OK clear finished action 3: With an unfinished time word (this month, this week, today). The period of time is still continuing. I haven't seen her this month. have never seen Can I guess the opposite ? Jan 9, 2020 at 19:47
  • Have a second look at the chart. Present perfect describes finished actions even if an unfinished time word is used. 'I haven't seen her this month' is a finished action because it only refers to the time from the start of the month to the time of speaking. It doesn't matter that the whole referred period hasn't yet come to an end. Once again, present perfect is used predominantly (not hardly) to tell about finished actions. 'I have never seen her before' is exactly the same. The referred period ends at the time of speaking. Your example neither contains 'for' nor 'since'. So, finished action.
    – Ben A.
    Jan 10, 2020 at 16:45

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